ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Stay Alive (2006)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: William Brent Bell

Starring:
Samaire Armstrong/Abigail
Sophia Bush/October
Adam Goldberg/Miller
Frankie Muniz/Swink
PLOT-CRUNCH
A bunch of despicable, grating and badly dressed teens play an “evil” video game called Stay Alive and go on to die in real life when they get “Game Over-ed” on screen.
THE LOWDOWN
As the STAY ALIVE end credits rolled, I was so angry for what I was put through. I felt swindled! So much so that I don’t even want to write this review right now. I already wasted enough time on this turd in the theatres. Alas…I gotta do my job, so here I go! I had a hunch that I was in trouble with this PG-13 lightweight when one of the previews before the film was for the teen girl gymnastic puker STICK IT. My exact words to my friend after that trailer: “We should book right now bro, this is a bad omen”. But I sadly, stuck around. I had a heavier bad feeling that I was in for some REAL pain when STAY ALIVE's flat, un-scary and bloodless opening kill kicked in. And I was so f*cking right.

The stinging began with the poseur teen characters I was asked to follow around. You know the twats I was supposed to root for? Awfully drawn out, armed with silly "hip" lines (karate bod?) and more aggravating than a ball breaking wife on speed, the pinnacle of depth for this lot was having one dude be a dick, another talk real “smarty pants fast” and giving the “asleep at the wheel” lead a yawn “past” (his parents died in a fire). You haven’t lived a full life until you’ve seen a 6 feet tall grown man with facial hair be scared shitless of a Zippo lighter…COME ON! The relationships at play didn’t fare much better as I had no indication whatsoever as to why these people were friends in the first place. Dropping a brother/sister tag down the road does not make a developed bond. Chemistry and fine tuned characterization does! Neither was found here. So what happens when you got nobody to hold on to “character” wise in a lousy horror film? YOU SUFFER!

The jumbled middle block of the film was the toughest to endure. After an intriguing yet shoddily executed and under developed initial premise, the film went on to serve up limp stalk sequences, wimp out quick flash gore, trite crank up the volume "boo scares" and pussy-ass “off screen” kills. Thanks! For giving me…NOTHING! The meat of the story didn’t fare much better either. It went a little bit like this: people bringing in books out of nowhere having to do with the legend behind the game (Snore). A groan inducing “cops on the case” subplot (worst cops ever by the way) that wound up having no point to it at the end of it all (Snore harder). And lots of “searching on the net” for clues (You can find Police Coroners' reports online??? You learn every day!) as to what’s going on (Snore till the cows out-noise you) Yup, I was so freaking bored it wasn’t even funny! I groaned, I squirmed in my seat and I bitched out loud so much...I was having such a SHITTY TIME!

And the last nail in my "by that point" headache plagued head came with the sad sack conclusion, which was not only utterly predictable but that also went on to insult my minute intellect. You see, it gave me next to ZERO concrete answers as to the reason behind the madness (Who created the game again?), it tossed in a silly left field love story that felt like a slap in the face and it had somebody who died, return with no explanation as to “how or why” he/she came back. Look I know I'm  not a smart man but cut me some freaking slack! Show me some respect as to what I'll go with! To me, it smelled like the film was snipped-snipped heavily for mass consumption, hence losing its back bone and sense. I could be wrong, I could be right.

Anything good to say about this waste? Well I dug the video game footage, kool looking game…I’d play it. The primary idea was groovy as well (Countess Bathory killing through a video game), the villainess was semi creepy (specially in the finale), we got a couple of clever lines (My fav: bitch, I ain't dead yet, that's cheatin!), some of the shots were fly and the use of a vibrating controller sound as a score was pretty novel. And sure the cap-off was somewhat suspenseful in places but by that time, it was too little too late for me i.e. Game Over for this dragging garbage patch crap. Should’ve called this one Stay Awake, as it took me everything I had to not take a trip to Dead Sheep Land while watching it.

GORE
We get quick flashes of blood, off screen kills (urg) and more quick flashes i.e. was an R rated flick butchered hardcore for that oh so coveted PG-13.
ACTING
Jon Foster (Hutch) made for a so-so leading man if you ask me. Photogenic? Yes. Good delivery? Yes. Able to emote emotional scenes credibly? No. Samaire Armstrong (Abigail) was the better actress here; she did what she could with what she was given. The same went for Sophia Bush (October) who came across as a good actress tackling bad material. Adam Goldberg (Miller) did his usual “neurotic”, “chain smoking” schtick while Frankie Muniz (Swink) and Jimmi Simpson (Phineus) played their bothersome roles well…so well in fact that I wanted to reach into the screen and strangle them both with my bare hands!
T & A
The ladies get Jon Foster shirtless. We get "na" and "thing".
DIRECTING
Apart from a couple of kool shots (mostly in game) and some random potent atmosphere the bah editing, the lack of tension and the cheap "boo scares" made sure to make this one feel uninspired for the most part.
SOUNDTRACK
Slick use of vibrating controller sound aside, this one suffered of the “one soundtrack fits all” syndrome as it felt like generic tunes were tagged to the scenes, and not matching them often at that.
BOTTOM LINE
They’re pulling another fast one on us with the sub par STAY ALIVE! Rating it PG-13 to get all the kiddies in the seats, releasing gory images online (that are not really in the film) to sway horror loving mooks like myself to go see it anyways, not screening it for critics in advance, hoping for a strong opening weekend (It worked! It opened third!) and then finishing it all off with a sure to be released unrated DVD that will make them more bread. That recipe is low man and I'm f*cking sick of it! I'm beyond fed up of getting screwed!

Unfortunately, the seldom positive elements in the film (concept, seldom tension, some of the score) didn't come close to saving it's ass! Heed my words! Avoid this ball-less, maddening, flimsy, impotent "scares wise", zero payoff and half cocked/baked and cocked some more opus. Maybe it didn't start out that way but as-is, it’s another soul-less “Horror McProduct” made for little girls under 13 as opposed to a true “horror film”. Easily the longest 85 minutes I’ve had to sit through this year! Ya want better genre treats that deal with video games? Seek out Hellraiser Hellworld or/and Brainscan instead! The former is actually damn good!

BULL'S EYE
Here's the synopsis off FANGORIA # 252: A game designer obsessed with a certain evil historic figure discovers that same foul personage entombed in Louisiana and winds up creating a game that kills people and rejuvenates the villainess. It was NOT made clear in the film...like at all! Like i said...snip, snip...bugh

The film was shot in Louisiana, USA.

Was initailly an R Rated film that was cut down to PG 13 by the Studio for its big screen release. I expect an "unrated" DVD down the road...if they stick to the usual money-making scheme.

DON'T VISIT THE STAY ALIVE SITE HERE

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3:05PM on 06/30/2007

Fuck

blockbuster online only has the RATED version... so that's the one I saw.. now Im curious.. the movie did suck by the way, I agree with the arrow on the way everyone is supposed to just be friends, it all feels so forced, the second half of the film was totally lame, hated the thing with the roses. But I guess I enjoyed it a lot more, some scenes WERE creepy and "scary" and i didn't mind Frankie Muniz, sure he could have toned down the geek lingo and throw away that stupid visor but infact he
blockbuster online only has the RATED version... so that's the one I saw.. now Im curious.. the movie did suck by the way, I agree with the arrow on the way everyone is supposed to just be friends, it all feels so forced, the second half of the film was totally lame, hated the thing with the roses. But I guess I enjoyed it a lot more, some scenes WERE creepy and "scary" and i didn't mind Frankie Muniz, sure he could have toned down the geek lingo and throw away that stupid visor but infact he and Abigail were the only people I was really rooting for.
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3:13PM on 04/10/2007

Not Bad

I quite liked this movie. I found it entertaining and a good spin on an idea that had been done several times before, (a la X-Files) I haven't seen the unrated version sadly. Yet, I still liked this movie a lot.
I quite liked this movie. I found it entertaining and a good spin on an idea that had been done several times before, (a la X-Files) I haven't seen the unrated version sadly. Yet, I still liked this movie a lot.
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9:02PM on 12/10/2006
I saw the unrated Director's Cut and it was a lot of fun. The New Orleans locations reminded me of Fulci's "The Beyond" and I loved the various game references, from "Fatal Frame" (the camera the girl uses) and "Silent Hill". Sure it had some inane plot points (a guy nearly gets into a wreck and wants his friends to come pick him up???) and that wisecracking brother character was annoying, but the good outweighed the bad here (I know Arrow hated him, but I thought Frankie Muniz was funny!).
I saw the unrated Director's Cut and it was a lot of fun. The New Orleans locations reminded me of Fulci's "The Beyond" and I loved the various game references, from "Fatal Frame" (the camera the girl uses) and "Silent Hill". Sure it had some inane plot points (a guy nearly gets into a wreck and wants his friends to come pick him up???) and that wisecracking brother character was annoying, but the good outweighed the bad here (I know Arrow hated him, but I thought Frankie Muniz was funny!). I can understand everyone hating it in theaters with all the cuts, since I thought everything in the director's cut was essential to the film. It's not perfect, but I had a groovy time with it.
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1:05PM on 10/18/2006

DVD much better...

Yeah, The unrated DVD isn't that bad. Though it isn't a great movie by any means, I still kind of dug it. Whether that's because I'm an avid gamer or just because I love horror, I don't know. Maybe both. Oh, and for the dead guy coming back...if you're following the movie and the "plot" then you would have seen it coming in that scene. But yeah, some friends...why didn't they try finding their friend to make sure said friend was alright or not?
Oh, and kudos for the lead figuring things
Yeah, The unrated DVD isn't that bad. Though it isn't a great movie by any means, I still kind of dug it. Whether that's because I'm an avid gamer or just because I love horror, I don't know. Maybe both. Oh, and for the dead guy coming back...if you're following the movie and the "plot" then you would have seen it coming in that scene. But yeah, some friends...why didn't they try finding their friend to make sure said friend was alright or not?
Oh, and kudos for the lead figuring things out in an insanely record time.
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9:13AM on 10/02/2006

The DVD is better

I'm sure the theatrical release sucked ass. I really am. All I know for sure is that, while not perfect, the Unrated DVD is actually quite an enjoyable little film. The opening was quite bloody and extremely freaky. The shots were on the money and I'd definitely get that game if it existed. So Arrow, watch the Unrated DVD - you'll be glad you did.
I'm sure the theatrical release sucked ass. I really am. All I know for sure is that, while not perfect, the Unrated DVD is actually quite an enjoyable little film. The opening was quite bloody and extremely freaky. The shots were on the money and I'd definitely get that game if it existed. So Arrow, watch the Unrated DVD - you'll be glad you did.
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+0
11:14AM on 10/01/2006

One of the few times that I strongly disagree with any of the Arrow's reviews.

When I first heard of this film, I thought the idea was really so cool. Then the reviews came out mostly (if not totally) negative and the film disappointed at the box-office. I rented it because I was curious to see how BAD it is, and color me surprised, it is not bad. It is actually rather entertaining and very watchable. Anyone who has the gift/talennt of "suspension of disbelief" should spend a good time with this little film. The idea is not totally original: a curse spread through a video
When I first heard of this film, I thought the idea was really so cool. Then the reviews came out mostly (if not totally) negative and the film disappointed at the box-office. I rented it because I was curious to see how BAD it is, and color me surprised, it is not bad. It is actually rather entertaining and very watchable. Anyone who has the gift/talennt of "suspension of disbelief" should spend a good time with this little film. The idea is not totally original: a curse spread through a video game that kills the players who doesn't finish it, or play itself if the gamers don't play. Think "RINGU" with a video-game twist.
The characters are all stereotypes, and the dialogue is all over the place and the gore is non-existant but I am not a gore fan. There are some good scares, and the gamers, the true ones, would sense the creepiness better than the average moviegoers. The film borrow much of its narration structure from the popular Japanese horror films: ancient legends, haunted places and curses that can be passed through people from one generation to the other.
The film looks good (good cinematography), some visuals are impressive, the game itself looks cool and the acting, while not Oscar-material, is acceptable to say the least. I totally bought Jon Foster as the lead and I really related to his character. The clichs are there but if you are a horror fan you should rather appreciate them.
So, all in all, I am not saying that this is the best choice of a horror film out there, but I wanna say just don't believe all the crap that comes out of critics some times. This is pure, silly entertainement but it is acceptable entertainement after all. And don't let the PG-13 rating turn you off either. It is good to see a film being interesting without seeing all the beheading and stabbing on screen. There is an R-rated director's cut coming out some time I guess but I was fairly satsified with this one.
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